Written by Can the birth of Jesus provide hope for those with none?
I asked about the couple's hopes for the young boy who was sprawled at their feet
Vasva, matriarch of her Bosnian family, remembers the day that war descended on her town, Pridjel Gornji in Doboj. Shots rang out from the hilltop. As Vasva and her neighbors gathered, they heard a warning call, "We are coming! Leave now or we will shoot you!"
Most families fled immediately, running down the street virtually emptyhanded. In four homes, the residents lingered and were shot.
During the 1990s, this scene was repeated over and over as the Balkans wars moved through the former Yugoslavia. Millions of people were displaced from their communities. Their return is slow and difficult, and in some cases it is impossible.
But after years of separation, Vasva's family is beginning to come back together.
This past September, Vasva welcomed me into her home, together with a few colleagues from the One Great Hour of Sharing Ecumenical Committee. We were visiting several Bosnian and Serbian communities where gifts to the One Great Hour of Sharing offering are being used by Church World Service (CWS) to provide relief and development assistance.
Vasva went on to tell us about her four sons, as the youngest of them sat quietly with his wife and their seven-year-old son. Since parents generally like to talk about their children, I asked about the couple's hopes for the boy who was sprawled at their feet.
Nadza, the young mother, looked uncomfortable as my question was translated. She and her husband, Mujo, looked at each other and then back at me with faces devoid of expression. One of them spoke and the answer came back from the translator, "They say they have no hope for him."
No hope. The invasion took away much more than this family's homes, possessions, and livelihoods. It blasted apart their hope for the next generation. I remembered the prediction of the CWS Balkans Director, Vitali Vorona, that it will likely take 50 years for Bosnia to recover. In 50 years, this boy's grandchildren might grow up with the stability and comfort that Vasva knew for much of her life.
Now it is two months after our visit, and Advent is here. I recall the blank faces of two young parents without hope for their son. And I think of baby Jesus, the embodiment of hope. Born when his parents had left their home and had no place to stay, Jesus was whisked away to Egypt to escape authorities who would kill him—who would kill hope.
In a world awash in human conflict and its devastation, humanity has a deep need for the Advent promise of love coming anew. May God grant us the dual blessing of receiving such grace and of being God's instruments to deliver it to others.
Sandy Lueschen is Minister for Personal Life, Stewardship and Church Finances Ministry, Local Church Ministries. Part of her work is promoting the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. As I See It is a column to help readers become better acquainted with national church leaders.